This week’s classroom tour comes from Hurricane Sandy survivor Cristina Duncan Evans in Baltimore, Maryland. Aside from a few power outages and three days off school (is it wrong to be jealous?) Cristina reports Baltimore is doing comparatively well. I recently attended a conference full of accomplished educators and Cristina stood out; she seldom spoke but every time she did I had a mini-revelation. Cristina is one of those people who when she speaks everyone in the room turns and listens. Thanks for sharing your classroom Cristina!
Welcome to my classroom! Please excuse my attire – I’m a little casual today because it’s a professional development day. I’m so glad to share my space with you! Right inside the door, you can see my folder system where extra copies go. There’s one folder each for Monday-Thursday and a folder labeled ‘Last Week.’ My students know that if they are absent they can pick up handouts and assignments from these folders. I also keep copies of frequently used sheets, like a current events analysis and weekly drill sheets available for students on that wall.
Where do you teach? In Baltimore City at the Baltimore School for the Arts
Who are your students? Most of my students are 9th, 11th and 12th graders.
What do you teach? I teach US History and American Government
This is my basic staging area where I place handouts and graded work that needs to be passed back. As a social studies teacher, I’m pretty much obligated to have up the three branches of government posters. The American flag is one of my favorite things in my classroom.
My ninth grade students maintain student work folders. At the end of each unit, they empty out their binder and put all of their old notes, readings, and graded work in a folder that I keep at the back of the class. It helps them stay organized. It also means that at the midterm and end of the year state test, I can give them back a year’s worth of notes, without worrying about them losing important pieces along the way. Finally, it helps me when I have parent meetings, IEP meetings, or meetings with a counselor, because I can always access examples of particular students’ work. It’s also be great in the past when I’m applying for peer-reviewed awards, to be able to easily add student work to my teaching portfolio.
Describe your teaching style in one word. Evolving. For better or worse, I’m constantly trying new things and experimenting.
What is your go-to literacy strategy? In American Government, one of my favorite strategies is current events analysis. Each quarter, students must turn in six current events articles and an analysis sheet for each one. The analysis sheet asks students for:
- A summary of the article
- What they found most interesting and why
- Familiar terms and their definitions
- Unfamiliar terms and their definitions
- A positive possible outcome of the event described
- A negative possible outcome of the event described that’s not just the opposite of the positive outcome
- The connection to American Government
I love this assignment because it helps kids develop the background knowledge necessary to fully understand the class. Often I’ll give the students themes. For example, second quarter, three of the events have to be about civil liberties and three have to be about civil rights, since those are the unit’s we’ll be working on for most of the quarter.
For the most part my desks are in rows, but about once every two weeks I make a circle for discussions or create small groups for kids to work together. In the back of the classroom you can see my freedom of the press wall, which has a map showing global press freedom and great student work. I love maps!
How do you motivate your students? I try to build student motivation by focusing on asking good questions and giving students the chance to listen to each other’s answers.
What is your favorite way to check for understanding? By cold-calling students using a random method, like popsicle sticks or a random number generator.
Here’s a view of my classroom from the back of the room. I have a few computers that I let students work on if they need to. I also have a growing classroom library that I’m not quite sure what to do with – there are a mix of all different types of books, but I haven’t yet done much independent reading in class. You can probably tell from looking at the front of the room that I’m a big LCD projector teacher – almost everyday I use powerpoint.